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When can sports massage help?

By: Galadriel Billington

10:04PM Apr 10, 2004

  • Muscle elasticity: blood flow, strong muscles, tight muscles
    Massage can help improve blood flow that has become sluggish due to a stall-kept horse's lack of movement, or to muscles that are tensed. Massage can also help the horse who is very fit, but resultingly is stiff and tight. Both improved blood flow and stretching/relieving tension in tight muscles will increase a horse's muscle elasticity; this will improve the horse's flexibility and his ability to extend. Better muscle elasticity also can help prevent muscle and tendon injuries. An inelastic, taut muscle is more likely to tear than one with stretch and give.

  • Fatigue, strength-building, injury
    When a horse is fatigued, injured or lame, he carries his weight differently to compensate. A horse in training may be worked to the point of fatigue to build strength and endurance; he may spend part of the session using a less-suitable muscle group to alleviate the fatigue in the muscles that are working. Massage can help relieve muscles that are forced to work harder in compensation. When the horse has healed from an injury, massage can also help stimulate the disused muscles as they are bought back into work.

  • Anxious or spooky horse
    Massage can help relax tension in muscles of a horse who is often anxious, spooky, or tense under saddle. Sometimes a very willing horse can develop some tension due to his depth of concentration. (Do you clench your jaw when you concentrate? Your horse might, too). A spooky horse may tense himself when startled, and build up tension with repeated spooking. Such tension in the neck, back and jaw can lead to headaches and resistance under saddle.

  • Post-trailering
    In a trailer ride, a horse must constantly shift to stay in place (have you ever ridden a bus or subway while standing upright?) If you want your horse to be in top shape when you travel to a competition, you may wish to consider a post-trailering or pre-event massage for him.

  • Pre-event/Post-event
    At a competition, a pre-event massage can stimulate circulation, help soothe him to calmness, or spark him to alertness--be sure to tell the ESMT which you'd prefer! A post-event massage can flush fatigue from the muscles, comfort highly stressed muscles, and help the horse recover from his effort.
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2004 Galadriel Billington. All rights reserved.